; Tangled Up In Blue: I sung it my waaaay (yeah baby)

Monday, September 19, 2005

I sung it my waaaay (yeah baby)

Yesterday on the radio I heard a unimaginative cover version of “I’m A Believer” by the Monkees covered by Smash Mouth – the hook was there with a bit of beach music tossed in on the mini guitar solo, but there was nothing of value and the vocal was… ugh.

Maybe I was missing something. Could it be that the version was just a camped up version like Devo’s “I Can’t Get No (Satisfaction)” or maybe it was just the sound of Smash Mouth that makes them a success. Like two buck chuck wine.

So what is a cover song? Wikipedia defines “a cover version [as] a new rendition of a previously recorded song. Pop musicians may play covers as a tribute to the original performer or group, to win audiences who like to hear a familiar song, or to increase their chance of success by using a proven hit or to gain credibility by its comparison with the original song. Covering material is an important method in learning various styles of music. Bands may also do it simply because they enjoy playing it.”

Personally I enjoy covers if they add more “value” i.e. a significant reworking whether tempo of a song, a radical style or vocal interpretation – otherwise to me, it is just upscale karaoke or unimaginative arrangement.

My top ten covers (subject to flux) at the moment are:

1) All Along the Watchtower (Bob Dylan) by JimiHendrix
2) Black Magic Woman (Fleetwood Mac) by Santana
3) Crossroads (Robert Johnson) by Cream
4) Feelin' Alright (Traffic) by Joe Cocker
5) The First Cut Is the Deepest (Cat Stevens) by Rod Stewart
6) I Heard It Through the Grapevine (Smokey Robinson) by Creedence Clearwater Revival
7) Stop Your Sobbing (Kinks) by The Pretenders
8) Summertime Blues (Eddie Cochran) by The Who
9) Take Me to the River (Al Green) by the Talking Heads
10) You Really Got Me (Kinks) by Van Halen

I’m giving my age away – but the above songs have significant arrangements and in my mind and ears, add more value… By the way, the Beatles are most covered band of all time. Chime in with your top ten!

11 Comments:

Blogger Stella said...

I'm usually not a big fan of cover songs...especiall Beatles ones since the "coverer" typically hacks it up. In my opinion, don't compete with a legend.

However...two very worthy ones that come to mind are She Said She Said (The Black Keys) by the Beatles and My Boyfriend's Back (The Raveonettes) by Martha and the Vandellas.

7:30 AM  
Blogger Raizor's Edge said...

It's funny that you mentioned "I'm a Believer." Vic Reeves (a British comedian) did a version of "I'm a Believer" that was actually pretty good. It seems that Smash Mouth's version is based more on Vic's version than the Monkee's rendition.

So, in no particular numerical or genre order, here are some of my favorite covers:

"Mansion on the Hill" - Whitstein Brothers. From their Grammy-nominated album Old-Time Duets. Think of the Louvin Brothers singing Hank Williams and you'll get the picture.

"Kentucky" - Louvin Brothers. The Blue Sky Boys did it before them, and the Osborne Brothers after them, but nobody did it like the Louvins.

"Rockin' Little Angel" - Webb Wilder. His cover just blows the original away.

"Sittin' and Thinkin'" - Ray Price. He puts enough of his own reading into this incredible Charlie Rich number to make it his own memorable number without insulting Rich's original.

"In the Misty Moonlight" - Jim Reeves. After hearing his version, I just forget all about Jerry Wallace's version.

"Through Your Hands" - Don Henley. People can just screw up John Hiatt songs terribly. Henley, however, did a superb job on this song on the Michael soundtrack.

"Pinball Wizard" - Elton John. He doesn't try to copy the original, he just makes the song his own, and he does a good job.

"An American Dream" - Dirt Band. Jimmy Buffett, in covering Rodney Crowell's "Stars on the Water," said there were song he wished he'd written. This Crowell song is probably on Buffett's list, too.

"Waltz of the Angels" - George Jones and Marge Singleton. I think their version charted four or five years after Wynn Stewart's, but the duet harmony really added a degree of originality to it.

"Sweet Dreams (Of You)" - Faron Young; Patsy Cline. While Don Gibson's original was bluesy, Faron's was midtempo country, and Patsy's was pure heartbreak.

"Back in the High Life Again" - Warren Zevon. He does it as a guitar-only ballad. Sound weird? You ought to hear it.

10:10 AM  
Blogger Karlo said...

I've got to find a copy of the Hendrix cover. That sounds awesome.

11:31 AM  
Blogger Sharon Cobb said...

Whoa...nice way to work Robert Johnson into the thread. He was such an amzing influence, and rarely gets his props.

My favorite cover is Hendrix's version of "All Along The Watchtower." I bet Mr Zimmerman would agree.

1:28 PM  
Anonymous Sarcastro said...

The Zevon version of 'High Life' seems to be more appropriate to the lyrics than the Winwood arrangement. The same goes for Chris Isaak's version of "South of the Border". Sinatra made it sound like a fun little jaunt to Mexico, but if you listen to the words, it's a heartbreaker.

What cover list is complete without the LUCKIEST cover band in the world? The Grateful Dead. Two that come to mind immediately are their version of Marty Robbins' epic, "El Paso" and the medley "Not Fade Away/Goin' Down The Road Feelin' Bad".

2:29 PM  
Blogger Rex L. Camino said...

John Hammond, Jr. put out an entire album of Tom Waits covers a few years back titled "Wicked Grin". It was produced by Waits, and every song is a fine tribute. It was great to hear the songs from a different perspective. I highly reccomend it for any Waits fans.

4:16 PM  
Blogger Luna said...

"My Back Pages" -- a Dylan song sung beautifully by The Byrds. They harmonize the chorus in a gorgeous way.

6:07 PM  
Blogger John H said...

In an earlier post where I griped about Linda Ronstadt's horrid version of Randy Newman's Sail Away, I mentioned that I thought that Nirvana's cover of the Leadbelly song, 'In the Pines' was the greatest cover ever. Aunt B chimed in and said that Elvis' cover of Bill Monroe's 'Blue Moon of Kentucky' was the greatest cover ever because he took the song over and turned it around and not only made it his song (a great one), he influenced how Monroe performed his OWN song from that time on. I really can't argue with Aunt B on this point.

Other great covers: the much-mentioned 'All along the Watchtower" - Hendrix
"Take Me to the River" - Talking Heads
"It's All over Now - Stones doing Womack
"Just my imagination" - stones doing the Tempts
"I wanna be your lover baby - Stones doing the Beatles
Ravonettes cover of 'My boyfriend's back' already mentioned above
Beatles cover of the Isley Brothers, "Twist and Shout'
"Everlasting Love" - U2 does Robert John
REM's concert version of Television's 'See No Evil'
Grateful dead doing Chuck Berry's 'Round and Round'

8:00 PM  
Blogger Glen Dean said...

Kerry, you really know your music. All of your cover picks were excellent.

John, you too.

8:06 PM  
Anonymous tom said...

I think that movies and TV have opened up a huge market for covers.

The Smashmouth cover was on the Shrek soundtrack.

Some covers that are really good that I heard on TV and in movies:

"I'll Never Fall in Love Again" (Dionne Warwick) Mary Chapin-Carpenter - 'My Best Friend's Wedding

"Beautiful" (Christina Aguilera) by Elvis Costello - 'House M.D.'

"Wishin' and Hopin'" (Dusty Springfield) - by Ani DiFranco - 'My Best Friend's Wedding.

"I Think It's Gonna Rain Today" (Randy Newman) by Bette Midler 'Beaches'

"Obla Di Obla Da" (The Beatles) Patti LuPone and Cast, 'Life Goes On'

10:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Two more great ones to add to the list:
The Stones' version of Chuck Berry's "Come On"
Big Star's version of the Kinks' "Till the End of the Day"

Elias Hiebert

4:01 AM  

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